Innovative health care solutions are all around us, waiting to be uncovered. Developing ideas into tangible products, services, and best practices must remain a priority in the longevity sector in order to support healthy aging among Canadians. This will become even more important in the years to come, as Canada’s senior population continues to experience significant growth.[i]
One of the major challenges facing older adults in Canada is dementia. There are over half a million people across the country living with the disease today[ii]. It’s worth noting that statistics on dementia or other cognitive conditions don’t always capture individuals who are mis-diagnosed, or not diagnosed at all.
How the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) is Helping to Improve Seniors’ Care
One of the major ways we aim to accomplish this mission is by looking for creative solutions across Canada. We’re dedicated to working with innovators from coast to coast to coast to develop, test, and validate solutions that will help our longevity sector remain flexible in addressing the ever-changing needs of Canada’s aging population.
CABHI’s Work Across Canada
Improving Cognitive Health with Art – Corner Brook, Newfoundland
Newfoundland health service organization, Western Health, is developing a community-based arts program that aims to maintain and improve cognitive fitness in older adults with mild to moderate frailty or mild to moderate cognitive decline. Older adults will be able to participate in arts-based activities in-person or virtually. The project’s objective is to lessen the risk of developing dementia, maintain cognitive health, promote engagement and fulfillment, and improve overall quality of life. The project is leveraging support from CABHI’s Spark Program.
A Hospital without Walls – Alberton, Prince Edward Island
Regional health service Health PEI is spearheading a project designed to bring the benefits of the local community hospital into the homes of older adults. The project, called Hospital Without Walls, brings together expertise from acute, primary, and geriatric care to explore the effectiveness of remote patient technology for seniors who may or may not have a family doctor or formal care provider. The project’s goal is to allow older adults and their family caregivers to stay connected to their health care team from the comfort of their homes. If successful, barriers to care would be removed and the hospital would no longer be in one geographic location – instead, the hospital would be virtually available everywhere.
Motivating Healthy Behaviour among Seniors – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia-based educational initiative Fountain of Health translates the current science on healthy aging into practical tools seniors can use to improve health outcomes and prevent or delay dementia. The program works with older adults to set attainable health goals that will maintain and improve their cognitive functions, such as incorporating mindfulness into their daily routine or taking a walk. Founder Dr. Keri-Leigh Cassidy, a professor of geriatric psychiatry at Dalhousie University, was one of the first innovators to receive support from CABHI’s Spark Program to test and validate her project.
Safely Reducing Medication Use in Older Adults – Fredericton, New Brunswick
MedSafer is an electronic tool that helps older adults safely reduce their intake of unnecessary medication. The tool works by generating personalized deprescribing guidelines for older adults using evidence-based algorithms. Carole Goodine, clinical pharmacy manager at Horizon Health Network, approached CABHI with plans to launch a project aimed at deploying MedSafer technology at York Care Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Goodine and her team received support from CABHI, in partnership with the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF)’s Seniors’ Care Strategic Innovation Fund, to create a computer application called the Pharmacy App, powered by MedSafer technology. The app is being used to facilitate deprescribing practices among older adults.
Collaborating with Older Adults to Improve Brain Health – Montreal, Quebec
CABHI-supported project e.SPACE is a multimodal online tool that aims to promote brain health in older individuals through five non-medicinal, evidence-based interventions. These interventions focus on memory, sleep, mental health, nutrition, and communication and will be developed and assessed through a collaborative process involving feedback from older adults and web-based measurements. The Centre Intégré Universitaire en Santé et Services Sociaux is partnering with CABHI through the Quebec Researcher-Clinician Partnership Program to conduct the project.
A Non-Invasive Tool for Detecting Alzheimer’s – Toronto, Ontario
Recent scientific evidence has demonstrated that the signs (or ‘biomarkers’) of Alzheimer’s normally found in the brain can also be found in the retina[iii]. These biomarkers identify those at risk of developing the disease years before symptoms appear. Ontario startup, RetiSpec, has developed a non-invasive eye scanner that uses artificial intelligence to detect these biomarkers and identify people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The technology is designed to be compatible with standard equipment available at most clinics, making it accessible and easy to implement. Through the Industry Innovation Partnership Program, CABHI matched RetiSpec with the Toronto Memory Program to trial the safety and effectiveness of the technology and help spur commercialization in Ontario and across Canada.
Reducing Ambulance & ER Use by Older Adults with Dementia – Winnipeg, Manitoba
Overcrowding in emergency departments is a recognized problem across Canada. With support from CABHI’s Spark Program, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Services developed a plan to leverage the expertise of emergency paramedics in the community to proactively identify patients at risk of harm or frequent emergency medical services. The paramedics made assessments based on a range of factors such as living conditions, lack of social supports, and cognitive impairments. The goal of the project is to identify older adults with dementia and collaborate with other allied agencies to provide appropriate care in a timely manner.
Studying Pain Mitigation with Virtual Reality – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Poorly managed pain can contribute to disability, frailty, social isolation, and falls in people living with dementia. However, a caregiver’s knowledge of pain management can reduce these risks significantly. One CABHI-supported research project aims to assess the effectiveness of virtual reality in educating caregivers on pain and its associated negative outcomes. The research project is being conducted by the Saskatoon Council on Aging and the Saskatchewan Health Authority with support from CABHI and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF)’s Collaborative Innovation Development Grant Program.
Patient-Centered Care – Red Deer, Alberta
The Elder Care Assessment Clinic, developed by the Red Deer Primary Care Network, is helping older adults living with dementia age in place for longer with patient-centered care recommendations. Recommendations are made by clinician staff using indicators such as cognitive health, mobility, and medication usage, and may include suggestions such as clinical tests, procedures or referrals to community programs and services. The recommendations are sent to the patient’s family physician to be implemented with guidance and support from clinicians. With support from CABHI’s Spark Program, the Elder Care Assessment Clinic is helping to foster customized care practices developed together with older adults and their care teams.
Elder-led Care in Indigenous Communities – Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Dr. Sangita Sharma, a professor at the University of Alberta, is building an Elder-led training program that promotes social engagement, healthy living and education among Indigenous seniors. The project, supported through CABHI’s Spark Program, will connect Indigenous seniors and caregivers living in the Northwest Territories to information on nutrition, physical activity and health care services through community-based events. The project’s roster of activities will include peer-led exercise classes, recipe sharing and berry or medicine picking.
Supporting Cultural Identity – Victoria, British Columbia
Helping seniors maintain their cultural identity as they age is an important way to support independent living and aging in place. Tamaduni Connect is an app that aims to do just that. The app connects seniors and their families to companies and residential care facilities that reflect their cultural background and perspectives. The Tamaduni Connect project team is testing the app at Beacon Hill Villa long-term care facility with support from CABHI’s Spark Program.
Shining a Light on Dementia – Whitehorse, Yukon
This project, spearheaded by the Yukon Government with support from CABHI, targets family caregivers and other frontline workers providing care for people with dementia. It aims to equip them with knowledge about dementia, available support services, information about how to navigate the health care system, and information about the legal and financial obligations that come with being a caregiver.